Second death row inmate to be killed by controversial new execution method

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By James Kay

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A controversial new execution method that was used previously is set to be used for a second time in Alabama.

Kenneth Eugene Smith, convicted in 1988 for the murder of Elizabeth Sennett, the wife of a preacher, faced execution at William C. Holman prison on January 25, using the controversial method of nitrogen hypoxia.

The procedure involves a mask being fitted to the inmate's face, through which pure nitrogen gas is administered, ultimately suffocating the person by cutting off the supply of oxygen.

State officials argued that nitrogen hypoxia would induce rapid unconsciousness and subsequent death, but the prisoner's legal team and human rights advocates contended that the method violated the Eighth Amendment, protecting against "cruel and unusual punishments."

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Kenneth Eugene Smith. Credit: Alabama Department of Corrections.

Despite legal challenges and appeals, the Supreme Court ultimately allowed Alabama to proceed with the execution, as reported by the BBC.

Now, in a move filed to the Supreme Court on Wednesday (February 21), Alabama requested a date for the execution of 59-year-old Alan Eugene Miller, employing the same execution method.

Alan Eugene Miller faces a similar fate to Smith, having originally been scheduled for lethal injection but now facing nitrogen hypoxia, per CBS News.

Miller, convicted for the killings of Terry Jarvis, Lee Holdbrooks, and Scott Yancy in 1999, was initially set for execution by lethal injection on September 22, 2022. However, similar to Smith's case, officials couldn't proceed before the midnight deadline.

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Alan Eugene Miller. Credit: Alabama Department of Corrections

Additionally, Miller filed a federal lawsuit against the lethal injection method, accusing prison officials of subjecting him to prolonged discomfort while restrained on a gurney.

Yesterday, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall filed that the state is "prepared to carry out the execution of Miller's sentence by means of nitrogen hypoxia."

The filing states: "It is once more the appropriate time for the execution of his sentence."

In regards to Smith's execution, according to the Independent, witnesses reported a different scenario from what Alabama authorities insisted.

Despite predictions that the untested method would lead to unconsciousness within seconds and death in minutes, Smith appeared conscious for several minutes, shaking and writhing on the gurney.

Reverend Jeff Hood, Smith's religious adviser and a witness to the execution, described a man "struggling for their life" for an astonishing 22 minutes.

The White House expressed concern over the execution, with press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stating: "It is very troubling to us as an administration. It is very troubling to us here at the White House."

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall addressed the media at a news conference following the execution, stating: "What occurred last night was textbook. As of last night, nitrogen hypoxia as a means of execution is no longer an untested method. It is a proven one."

Featured image credit: Andrew Lichtenstein/Getty

Second death row inmate to be killed by controversial new execution method

vt-author-image

By James Kay

Article saved!Article saved!

A controversial new execution method that was used previously is set to be used for a second time in Alabama.

Kenneth Eugene Smith, convicted in 1988 for the murder of Elizabeth Sennett, the wife of a preacher, faced execution at William C. Holman prison on January 25, using the controversial method of nitrogen hypoxia.

The procedure involves a mask being fitted to the inmate's face, through which pure nitrogen gas is administered, ultimately suffocating the person by cutting off the supply of oxygen.

State officials argued that nitrogen hypoxia would induce rapid unconsciousness and subsequent death, but the prisoner's legal team and human rights advocates contended that the method violated the Eighth Amendment, protecting against "cruel and unusual punishments."

size-full wp-image-1263235284
Kenneth Eugene Smith. Credit: Alabama Department of Corrections.

Despite legal challenges and appeals, the Supreme Court ultimately allowed Alabama to proceed with the execution, as reported by the BBC.

Now, in a move filed to the Supreme Court on Wednesday (February 21), Alabama requested a date for the execution of 59-year-old Alan Eugene Miller, employing the same execution method.

Alan Eugene Miller faces a similar fate to Smith, having originally been scheduled for lethal injection but now facing nitrogen hypoxia, per CBS News.

Miller, convicted for the killings of Terry Jarvis, Lee Holdbrooks, and Scott Yancy in 1999, was initially set for execution by lethal injection on September 22, 2022. However, similar to Smith's case, officials couldn't proceed before the midnight deadline.

size-full wp-image-1263250108
Alan Eugene Miller. Credit: Alabama Department of Corrections

Additionally, Miller filed a federal lawsuit against the lethal injection method, accusing prison officials of subjecting him to prolonged discomfort while restrained on a gurney.

Yesterday, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall filed that the state is "prepared to carry out the execution of Miller's sentence by means of nitrogen hypoxia."

The filing states: "It is once more the appropriate time for the execution of his sentence."

In regards to Smith's execution, according to the Independent, witnesses reported a different scenario from what Alabama authorities insisted.

Despite predictions that the untested method would lead to unconsciousness within seconds and death in minutes, Smith appeared conscious for several minutes, shaking and writhing on the gurney.

Reverend Jeff Hood, Smith's religious adviser and a witness to the execution, described a man "struggling for their life" for an astonishing 22 minutes.

The White House expressed concern over the execution, with press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stating: "It is very troubling to us as an administration. It is very troubling to us here at the White House."

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall addressed the media at a news conference following the execution, stating: "What occurred last night was textbook. As of last night, nitrogen hypoxia as a means of execution is no longer an untested method. It is a proven one."

Featured image credit: Andrew Lichtenstein/Getty